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Reinventing the split-screen in 360 degrees for a charity video

Reinventing the split-screen in 360 degrees for a charity video

VR has often been referred to as the empathy machine because of the effectiveness of projects like The Loss Foundation’s 360° campaign film, “The Reality of Loss.”

This charity video capitalises on the immersive nature of VR to allow viewers to experience the emotions of someone who has recently been bereaved – but goes beyond simple illustration by using a virtual split screen to juxtapose happy memories from the past with the more sombre narrative of the present.  It’s an emotional rollercoaster in 360-degrees.

Why the Loss Foundation used VR for a charity video

When the Loss Foundation – the only UK charity dedicated solely to providing bereavement support following the loss of a loved one to cancer – received Big Lottery Funding, they knew they wanted to create a VR experience to help people understand what it’s like to lose someone you love.  They enlisted the help of Raw London to help them use the technology to tell the story of the charity’s work.

“With lots of 360° videos – of varying quality – appearing online recently, we thought it was important to create something a bit different to ensure that this campaign got the attention it deserved,” explains Lee Jones, DoP and editor for Raw London.  “We decided to use the split screen to give viewers a unique glimpse into the life of someone before and after they lost a loved one, and spatial audio to heighten the experience and guide the viewer into looking in the right direction to follow the narrative.”

But, while Raw London is a respected video content agency with an impressive portfolio, they had previously relied on the services of external specialists for high-profile VR projects.  This was the first time they would produce a high-end, 360° film themselves.

Choosing the right equipment

One of the biggest decisions Raw had to make was what camera/s to use.  “Our own 360 GoPro rig yielded some good results, but we weren’t convinced that it was the right choice for such a technically challenging project,” continues Jones.  “The narrative split screen element and size and complexity of the production demanded a streamlined workflow and the ability to view what the camera was capturing during filming.  When Shooting Partners gave us a demonstration of the Nokia OZO it was clear that it had a lot of benefits over our camera rig and we were convinced it was the right choice for this project.”

The OZO delivers seamless virtual reality with eight 2k-by-2k sensors capturing 360-degree spherical video and eight microphones recording 360×360 surround sound.  Designed and engineered by Nokia, it is the first VR camera of its kind – a compact, lightweight stereoscopic unit that captures multiple high-resolution viewpoints but outputs a single video file that can be previewed in real time during recording.  Shooting Partners provided RAW Productions with a trained technician for set-up and operation, and the following kit for their shoot:

  • The OZO VR camera.
  • 3 x OZO Digital Cartridge bundles (each bundle includes a rechargeable battery and a removable OZO Media Module that supports recording for 45 minutes).
  • OZO Docking Station (for battery re-charge and media transfer).
  • Macbook Pro with Oculus DK2 Head Mounted Display (which allows users to preview the output from the OZO camera in real time).

“We had a great experience shooting with the Nokia OZO – this project was a fantastic learning curve in 360-degree video production and will enable us to create content that exploits the benefits of the OZO in the future,”

–Lee Jones, DoP and editor for Raw London

Jones continues, “Having a live feed to a laptop and 360° headset was an incredible benefit that we plan to include in all future shoots, the stereoscopic lenses on the front of the camera gave an immense sense of depth to the image and the ability to stitch lines from each lens on the laptop meant we were able to block actors around the stitch lines or even (non-destructively) move the stitch lines on the laptop to save time in post-production.  We learned that you have to be very careful with lighting and window placement in a 360° location – you can’t frame anything out of shot!”

Sharing the message

“The Reality of Loss” was premiered at The Loss Foundation’s annual fundraiser at Union Chapel on June 8th, 2017.  Attendees queued to experience the film using Samsung VR headsets hired for the occasion and guests were given Google Cardboard VR glasses so that they could view the film on their own devices after the event.  The Loss Foundation plans to promote the film widely over the course of the next year and was invited to present it at the International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society in Lisbon in July 2017, where it received fantastic reviews.

Dr Erin Hope Thomson, director of The Loss Foundation says, “The initial results for the video have been extremely powerful and it’s just the beginning for the project. We have collected qualitative data that shows the film is creating strong effect for all who watch it; people who are bereaved as well as those who aren’t. The film cuts right through taboo and provides an immersive experience on loss that isn’t uncomfortable to watch. The film connects people to one of the most human experiences – grief. It is a huge achievement!”

 “VR is an amazing way to engage audiences in emotional topics because it literally puts you in someone else’s shoes. There’s a reason why marketers call it ‘the empathy machine,’ says Ryan Wilkins, founder and CEO of Raw London.  “What’s really inspiring about The Loss Foundation’s project is that they are a small charity who have really understood how to use virtual reality to share their message. They are part of a revolution in the content communications sector that proves that VR is about so much more than just gaming.”

Shooting Partners is now part of Anna Valley, get in touch to find out more about producing immersive video experiences.